The women-only world record-holder is keen to see how quick she can go accompanied by male pacemakers as she targets the outright marathon mark

Mary Keitany will attempt to follow in the footsteps of the “legend” Paula Radcliffe as she targets the outright women’s world record at the Virgin Money London Marathon this weekend.

The Kenyan clocked 2:17:01 to break Radcliffe’s women-only world mark in the UK capital last year and on Sunday (April 22) she will be accompanied by male pacemakers as she aims for the Briton’s 2:15:25, which was run in London in 2003.

Keitany’s halfway split in 2017 was 66:54 – the fastest ever in a marathon – but she was unable to sustain that pace when running solo in the latter stages of the race. This time the 36-year-old hopes a “systematic” pace will help her, but she is under no illusions about the scale of the task ahead.

“It is not easy – 2:15 is something else,” she said at a press conference in London on Wednesday. “We will try to follow in the footsteps of the legend Paula. We are ready to try to our best to see if we will be able to go that far.

“I want to say thank you to the race director of London for this position, that they have male pacemakers to assist the women so we can see how far we can go, if we can do it.

“I think the pace will be under control. I hope there will be a systematic pace.

“I have trained well and I am ready for the race on Sunday.”

Keitany proved her form with a 64:55 half-marathon PB at the RAK Half Marathon in February – a time which puts her third on the world all-time list.

“It was great for me to do that and see where I am (ahead of the marathon), to see what I need to do in training,” she said, adding that her preparations have remained much the same as last year, although she has increased her speedwork and number of track sessions.

Keitany – on the hunt for a fourth win in London – is also not concerned about the predicted warm temperatures and said: “I think it will be good for me.”

The race has been billed has a head-to-head between Keitany and Ethiopian great Tirunesh Dibaba, who placed runner-up behind her Kenyan rival in London last year with a time of 2:17:56.

While Keitany is keen to find out what she might be capable of with the support of male pacemakers, Dibaba said her preparations and the competition she will face could prove more significant.

“I know that the organisers have put on good pacemakers but what is more important is my own condition,” she said, speaking through an interpreter.

“If I have prepared well then I will race well,” she added, explaining that she feels in even better shape this year than she did in 2017.

“I know there are good competitors around me and actually my own shape and the competition is more important than having a pacemaker there.”

» See the April 19 edition of AW for a six-page preview to the Virgin Money London Marathon